28th April, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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(GS3: Indigenization of Technology)
Issue: The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by the Raksha Mantri Smt Nirmala Sitharaman, accorded approval to Capital Acquisition Proposals of the Services valued at over Rs 3,687 crore.
Major projects given approval to include:
1. In a boost to indigenization and in realization of India’s growing technological prowess, the DAC approved procurement of Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO’s) designed and developed NAG Missile System (NAMIS) at the cost of Rs 524 crore. The system includes a third generation Anti-Tank Guided Missile, the NAG, along with the Missile Carrier Vehicle (NAMICA). The NAG missile is a third generation anti-tank guided missile, which has top attack capabilities that can effectively engage and destroy all known enemy tanks during day and night. This will give a quantum boost to the Army’s capability against enemy armor.
2. The DAC also approved procurement of thirteen 127 mm calibre guns for the Navy. These guns will be fitted on-board new construction ships for undertaking surface engagements including Naval Gunfire Support Operations.
3. The DAC also reviewed the progress of the DRDO programme to develop indigenous Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS).
Asia Pacific Regional Workshop of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
(GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: The four-day Asia Pacific Regional Workshop of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), jointly hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and UNCCD Secretariat, to build the capacity of the Asia-Pacific Region to monitor and report on land degradation
About the workshop
1. The four-day Workshop trained the participants in the use of an innovative land degradation monitoring tool by Conservation International, for the reporting process of UNCCD
2. This can significantly increase access to large amounts of Earth observation data and make it available in a comprehensible form for decision-makers at national and state level, thereby contributing to achieving the objectives underlined in the Convention
3. The training also focused on the use of new data and methods to estimate the extent and severity of land degradation, and shed light on the declining condition of India’s land resources and its impact on livelihoods.
4. The data presented in the land degradation Tool will be used for reporting to the UNCCD and as part of the indicator framework for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the only legally binding international agreement on land issues. The Convention promotes good land stewardship. Its 197 Parties aim, through partnerships, to implement the Convention and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The end goal is to protect land from over-use and drought, so it can continue to provide food, water and energy. By sustainably managing land and striving to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality, now and in the future, not only will the impact of climate change be reduced, but a conflict over natural resources will be avoided.
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is the nodal Ministry for this Convention, as well as the other two Rio Conventions – United Nations Framework Convention to Combat Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity, having their genesis in the Earth Summit in 1992 in Rio De Janerio, Brazil.
(GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: Considering the importance of Water Conservation especially during April to June period of peak demand for work in rural areas, the Government of India has released adequate funds for large scale thrust on completing 43.62 lakh Natural Resource Management works which are under implementation. It has also urged the States to accord maximum priority to Water Conservation works during the first quarter of 2018-19 including River Rejuvenation.
More about the water conservation:
With near universal geo-tagging of assets and payment of wages and materials through the Electronic Fund Management System (EFMS), a transparent Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has made concerted efforts to create durable assets. The thrust has been on Natural Resource Management (NRM), both on community and individual beneficiary lands of small and marginal farmers. Due to these concerted efforts, 143 lakh hectares have benefitted through Water Conservation efforts under MGNREGS over the last 3 years. This includes construction of over 11 lakh farm ponds in the last 2 years, large scale Water Conservation Schemes and vermi composting pits.
‘Van Dhan Scheme’
(GS2: Government policies for development in various sectors)
Issue: The Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi launched the Van Dhan Scheme of Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Limited (TRIFED) on 14th April, 2018 during the celebrations of Ambedkar Jayanti at Bijapur, Chhattisgarh. Emphasizing the important role of value addition in increasing tribal incomes, he stated that Van Dhan, Jan Dhan and Gobar-Dhan Schemes had the potential to change the tribal-rural economic system. All these three schemes in tandem need to be promoted for this purpose by the State Governments.
About the scheme:
Under Van Dhan, 10 Self Help Groups of 30 Tribal gatherers is constituted. They are then trained and provided with working capital to add value to the products, which they collect from the jungle. Working under the leadership of Collector these groups can then market their products not only within the States but also outside the States. Training and technical support is provided by TRIFED. It is proposed to develop 30,000 such centres in the country.
(GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: In the culmination of a week of focus on a disease at a crossroads, the 53 leaders of Commonwealth nations committed to halve the burden of malaria across the Commonwealth within five years.
Backed by financial, political and scientific commitments worth over USD 4.1 billion made at the Malaria Summit London 2018, this commitment injects renewed energy to help put the world on track towards beating the disease.
Issue: The European Space Agency’s mission to search for life on Mars has reached an important milestone with its six-wheeled surface rover prototype ready for its “shake and bake”.
About the project
1. If the 2020 mission goes to plan it would be Europe’s first rover on Mars, following several successful NASA landings.
2. Europe’s last attempt to land a rover vehicle on the surface of Mars ended in disappointment in 2016 when Schiaparelli span out of control and slammed into the red sand.
3. The ESA rover will be more sophisticated though, featuring a two-meter exploration drill and an autonomous navigation system.
‘GST collection during July 2017- March 2018’
(GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: Buoyed by year-end sales, which helped the government mop up close to Rs 1 lakh crore in Goods and Services Tax (GST) during March, collections during the first year of rollout were estimated at Rs 7.4 lakh crore.
Some problems faced during GST roll-out
1. Although compliance was seen to be a problem, with the blame being put on the returns, the proportion of registered taxpayers filing returns too seems to have stabilized.
2. While the Centre did have to compensate some of the states for revenue loss after the new regime kicked in from July, it was left with over Rs 20,000 crore surplus in the fund where the compensation cess levied on sin and luxury goods such as tobacco and high-end vehicle flowed in.
‘Denuclearization in Korean Peninsula’
(GS2: International relations)
Issue: The leaders of North and South Korea embraced on Friday after pledging to work for the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula”, on a day of smiles and handshakes at the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade.
Highlights of the meeting
1. The two Koreas announced they would work with the U.S. and China this year to declare an official end to the 1950s Korean War and seek an agreement on “permanent” and “solid” peace.
2. The Panmunjom Declaration, named after the truce village that hosted the talks, included promises to pursue phased arms reduction, cease hostile acts, transform their fortified border into a peace zone and seek multilateral talks with other countries, including the U.S.
(GS2: Bilateral relations)
Issue: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday began open-ended talks which could yield far-reaching results ranging from a likely détente to a full normalization of ties that were marred by the 1962 border war.
Highlights of the meeting
1. The two leaders, in their dialogue, are not being guided by rigid talking points. Instead, they are expected to align India-China ties to counter the headwinds of growing protectionism
2. Analysts say the two countries are preparing to emerge as the twin engines of a new wave of globalization, in which Asia and the emerging economies will play a leading role.
3. The focus of the Wuhan talks is, therefore, on seeking geo-economic opportunities, including new supply chains, and avoiding geopolitical rifts, which peaked with last year’s Doklam stand-off
‘Maoist problem in India’
(GS3: Challenges to internal security)
Issue: Security forces killed at least eight Maoists, including five women, on Friday in a forest in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district, police said, after 39 rebels were gunned down in neighboring Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli earlier this week.
A joint squad of Greyhounds, an elite anti-Maoist unit of the Telangana Police, and security personnel from Chhattisgarh launched a combing operation on Thursday in the forests along the inter-state border following a tip-off about the presence of Maoists.
Who are Greyhounds?
Greyhounds are a special force of the Indian states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh that specializes in anti-insurgency operations against Naxalite and Maoist terrorists.
Several senior Indian paramilitary and police officers have described the Greyhounds as the best anti-insurgency force that specializes in anti-Maoist operations and as experts in jungle warfare.
(GS2: Bilateral relations)
Issue: The Secretary of State should be allowed to grant waiver to countries such as India that will otherwise come under American sanctions under a new law that intends to target Russia
What are sanctions about?
The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) mandates the U.S. President to impose sanctions on entities that have transactions with Russian defence and intelligence sectors. India being a close defence partner of Russia is a potential target of such sanctions, along with some other key American allies such as Vietnam and Turkey. The law allows the President to issue waivers under national security considerations. Typically, American punitive law comes with waiver authority vested in the Secretary of State.
(GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: Growth in bank loans to the farm sector declined significantly in the financial year 2017-18 while overall non-food credit growth remained unchanged, from the previous fiscal, latest data from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) showed.
What the data suggests?
1. Credit to agriculture and allied activities rose 3.8% for the year ended March 2018 as compared with a 12.4% in the previous year.
2. The farm sector is in distress in several parts of the country with many State governments announcing loan waivers to farmers in the last few years
3. Overall non-food credit growth of commercial banks in 2017-18 remained at 8.4% as in the previous year.
4. Credit to major sub-sectors such as textiles, vehicles, vehicle parts and transport equipment, engineering, food processing, etc. accelerated. While loan to infrastructure, metal, cement etc. has declined.
‘Competition Commission of India’
(GS2: Statutory body)
Issue: The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal on Friday asked Google Inc to deposit 10% of the Rs136.86 crore penalty imposed on it by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) for “infringing antitrust conduct”, while admitting the company’s appeal against the antitrust regulator’s 7 February order.
The objectives of the Act are sought to be achieved through the Competition Commission of India (CCI), which has been established by the Central Government with effect from 14th October 2003. CCI consists of a Chairperson and 6 Members appointed by the Central Government.
It is the duty of the Commission to eliminate practices having adverse effect on competition, promote and sustain competition, protect the interests of consumers and ensure freedom of trade in the markets of India.
The Commission is also required to give opinion on competition issues on a reference received from a statutory authority established under any law and to undertake competition advocacy, create public awareness and impart training on competition issues.
The Competition Act, 2002, as amended by the Competition (Amendment) Act, 2007, follows the philosophy of modern competition laws. The Act prohibits anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position by enterprises and regulates combinations (acquisition, acquiring of control and M&A), which causes or likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition within India.
National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) was constituted under Section 410 of the Companies Act, 2013 for hearing appeals against the orders of National Company Law Tribunal(s) (NCLT), with effect from 1st June, 2016.
NCLAT is also the Appellate Tribunal for hearing appeals against the orders passed by NCLT(s) under Section 61 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC), with effect from 1st December, 2016. NCLAT is also the Appellate Tribunal for hearing appeals against the orders passed by Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India under Section 202 and Section 211 of IBC.
NCLAT is also the Appellate Tribunal to hear and dispose of appeals against any direction issued or decision made or order passed by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) – as per the amendment brought to Section 410 of the Companies Act, 2013 by Section 172 of the Finance Act, 2017, with effect from 26th May, 2017.
‘External Commercial Borrowings’
(GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: In a bid to facilitate cheaper access of overseas funds, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Friday further liberalized External Commercial Borrowings (ECB) policy by including more sectors in the window.
What is External Commercial Borrowing?
External commercial borrowing (ECBs) are loans in India made by non-resident lenders in foreign currency to Indian borrowers. They are used widely in India to facilitate access to foreign money by Indian corporations and PSUs (public sector undertakings). ECBs include commercial bank loans, buyers’ credit, and supplier’s credit, securitized instruments such as floating rate notes and fixed rate bonds etc., credit from official export credit agencies and commercial borrowings from the private sector window of multilateral financial Institutions such as International Finance Corporation (Washington), ADB, AFIC, CDC, etc. ECBs cannot be used for investment in stock market or speculation in real estate. The DEA (Department of Economic Affairs), Ministry of Finance, Government of India along with Reserve Bank of India, monitors and regulates ECB guidelines and policies.
Most of these loans are provided by foreign commercial banks and other institutions. During the 2012, contribution of ECBs was between 20 to 35 percent of the total capital flows into India. Large number of Indian corporate and PSUs has used the ECBs as sources of investment.
For infrastructure and green-field projects, funding up to 50% (through ECB) is allowed. In telecom sector too, up to 50% funding through ECBs is allowed. Recently Government of India allowed borrowings in Chinese currency yuan. Corporate sectors can mobilize USD 750 million via automatic route, whereas service sectors and NGO’s for microfinance can mobilize USD 200 million and 10 million respectively.
Borrowers can use 25 per cent of the ECB to repay rupee debt and the remaining 75 per cent should be used for new projects. A borrower cannot refinance its entire existing rupee loan through ECB. The money raised through ECB is cheaper given near-zero interest rates in the US and Europe, Indian companies can repay part of their existing expensive loans from that.
(GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: India’s rice exports surged 18% from a year ago to a record 12.7 million tonnes in 2017/18 on good demand for non basmati rice from Bangladesh, Benin and Sri Lanka, a government body said in a statement.
India is the world’s biggest exporter of rice, buffalo meat and guar gum.
Rice producing regions in India
India is one of the world’s largest producers of rice and brown rice, accounting for 20% of all world rice production. Rice is India’s pre-eminent crop, and is the staple food of the people of the eastern and southern parts of the country
Rice is one of the chief grains of India. Moreover, this country has the largest area under rice cultivation, as it is one of the principal food crops. It is in fact the dominant crop of the country. India is one of the leading producers of this crop. Rice is the basic food crop and being a tropical plant, it flourishes comfortably in hot and humid climate. Rice is mainly grown in rain fed areas that receive heavy annual rainfall. That is why it is fundamentally a kharif crop in India. It demands temperature of around 25 degree Celsius and above and rainfall of more than 100 cm. Rice is also grown through irrigation in those areas that receives comparatively less rainfall. Rice is the staple food of eastern and southern parts of India. In 2009-10, total rice production in India amounted to 89.13 million tonnes, which was much less than production of previous year, 99.18 million tonnes.
Rice can be cultivated by different methods based on the type of region. But in India, the traditional methods are still in use for harvesting rice. The fields are initially ploughed and then fertilizer is applied which typically consists of cow dung and then the field is smoothed. The seeds are transplanted by hand and then through proper irrigation, the seeds are cultivated. Rice grows on a variety of soils like silts, loams and gravels. It can also tolerate alkaline as well as acid soils. However, clayey loam is well suited to the raising of this crop. Actually the clayey soil can be easily converted into mud in which rice seedlings can be transplanted easily. Proper care has to be taken as this crop thrives if the soil remains wet and is under water during its growing years. Rice fields should be level and should have low mud walls for retaining water. In the plain areas, excess rainwater is allowed to inundate the rice fields and flow slowly. Rice raised in the well watered lowland areas is known as lowland or wet rice. In the hilly areas, slopes are cut into terraces for the cultivation of rice. Thus, the rice grown in the hilly areas is known as dry or upland rice. Interestingly, per hectare yield of upland rice is comparatively less than that of the wet rice.
The regions cultivating this crop in India is distinguished as the western coastal strip, the eastern coastal strip, covering all the primary deltas, Assam plains and surrounding low hills, foothills and Terai region- along the Himalayas and states like West Bengal, Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh, eastern Madhya Pradesh, northern Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. India, being a land of eternal growing season, and the deltas of Kaveri River, Krishna River, Godavari River, Indravati River and Mahanadi River with a thick set-up of canal irrigation like Hirakud Dam and Indravati Dam, permits farmers to raise two, and in some pockets, even three crops a year. Irrigation has made even three crops a year possible. Irrigation has made it feasible even for Punjab and Haryana, known for their baked climate, to grow rice. They even export their excess to other states. Punjab and Haryana grow prized rice for export purposes. The hilly terraced fields from Kashmir to Assam are idyllically suited for rice farming, with age-old hill irrigational conveniences. High yielding kinds, enhanced planting methods, promised irrigation water supply and mounting use of fertilizers have together led to beneficial and quick results. It is the rain fed area that cuts down average yields per hectare.
In some of the states like West Bengal, Assam and Orissa two crops of rice are raised in a year. Winter season in the north western India are extremely cold for rice. Rice is considered as the master crop of coastal India and in some regions of the eastern India where during the summer monsoon rainy season both high temperature and heavy rainfall provide ideal conditions for the cultivation of rice. Almost all parts of India are suitable for raising rice during the summer season provided that the water is available. Thus, rice is also raised even in those parts of western Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana where low level areas are waterlogged during the summer monsoon rainy season.
Winter rice crop is a long duration crop and summer rice crop is a short duration crop. At some places in the eastern and southern parts of India, rice crop of short duration is followed by the rice crop of long duration. Winter rice crop is raised preferably in low-lying areas that remain flooded mainly during the rainy season. Autumn rice is raised in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. Summer, autumn and winter rice crops are raised in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Orissa. Summer rice crop is raised on a small scale and on a small area. However, winter rice crop is actually the leading rice crop accounting for a major portion of the total Hectare under rice in all seasons in the country. Moreover, in the last few years, several steps in order to augment yield per hectare were taken up very seriously at all levels. India ranks fourth in the production of wheat in the world. Favorable Geographical Condition for Wheat Cultivation: In India, wheat is a winter crop. Wheat requires a moderate cool climate with moderate rain. In India, it is grown in winter. It needs temperature 10 degree C to 15 degree C for its cultivation. It thrives well in an average temperature of 16-degree C. Warm and sunny weather is essential at the time of ripening. Wheat requires a rainfall of 50 cm to 100 cm during the growing season. Too much rain is injurious to the plant. On irrigated lands, a rainfall of 40 cm to 50 cm is sufficient. Light rainfall and cloudiness before the grain ripens increase the productivity. Alluvial level plains are ideal for wheat cultivation. Slightly rolling plains are also suitable. Plains should be well drained so that water cannot stand there. Wheat requires fertile alluvial soil. Clay loamy soils or even black cotton soils are suitable. Soil should retain moisture. A certain amount of lime in the soil is beneficial. Labor factors are not as important in the wheat cultivation as in the case of rice. However, labor is essential for the cultivation. The other requirements of wheat cultivation include (i) irrigation, (ii) high yielding varieties of seeds and (iii) the same way